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November 20, 2023 Poetry


Danielle Chelosky

JFK photo


a man dressed up as Elvis
bums a cigarette off me
you’re talking about smoking tobacco 
out of a bowl
I’m telling you to squeeze my hand 
as hard as you can
we’re leaning over the railing 
watching everyone evacuate
you’re hugging your friend 
dressed up as Jesus
we’re kissing goodbye 
in the rain on the corner
you’re telling me about bands 
that play music for zoo animals
I’m driving home daydreaming 
about the rest of my life



we follow the clamor of drums 
leaking through the walls of a laundromat 
after we fuck you look at me 
and say, “I like the corners of your mouth”
the glitter from my eye makeup
makes your forehead sparkle
you fall up the stairs 
and then trip over a fire hydrant
we’re the only people 
dancing in a crowd
I drive 80mph 
all the way home



cigarettes on your fire escape
you think it’s crueler to flick a bug 
than to burn it with a cigarette
we make out in the dark
fucking with the lights off
on your roof we talk about the times 
we’ve seen each other before:
a train, a sidewalk, a party, a show, a bar.
walking back down, you explain a JFK:
vodka in the cavity of the bottom of a shot glass
snorted, and a headache 
like a bullet to the head.


On your fire escape, I tell you a story Paul told me, about when Paul was smoking a cigarette in front of his apartment one night and a man asked him for cash, Paul said he didn’t have any. The man asked him for a cigarette, Paul gave him one. The man reached into his coat, pulled out a pill, asked Paul if he wanted it. Paul asked what it was. A Percocet, the man said. No thanks, Paul said, I’m good. The man said, You know what, you’re one of the good ones, you’re going to move out west, marry a beautiful woman, and live an amazing life. Paul said thank you. You like this story. I wish I had more like it up my sleeve, to make you smile and laugh, I want to perform for you, pretend to be good enough for you.


At a cafe the next day, a girl tells me about her uncle who was nearly sentenced to life in prison for an elaborate drug scheme. He got away with it because he snitched to the cops and they helped him move out of the state and change his identity. She relays this to me as we chainsmoke in seventy degree weather in the middle of November. While I’m doing this, you’re commuting to the Newark airport to meet your family in Europe. I get flashes of being in your bed again, you saying, “You’re amazing,” you kissing my pussy before buttoning up the bottom of my bodysuit, you putting your thumb in my mouth. I remember when you explained a JFK, how you thought I was put off by the image of liquor entering nostrils, but I’m turned on, drawn in, enticed by what you are capable of. I am not capable of anything anymore, all I have is cigarettes and driving ninety miles per hour on the way home from yours. You have drinking and some drugs like coke and ketamine but not opiates, you don’t raid medicine cabinets anymore. The girl at the cafe says she has drinking and cigarettes but no longer cutting, she hasn’t done it in three years. You say you like that I don’t do drugs but I don’t believe you. You say you don’t mind that I’m shy but I don’t believe you.


I wake up from a dream about church, all the pews separated by screens displaying advertisements and I complain to my friends about how blatantly capitalistic Catholicism has become, and then everything on the floor disappears and we’re racing from one wall to the other and I’m surprised when I win. A few hours later, before I even shower or get dressed, the doorbell rings and Jehovah’s witnesses ask if I believe in God, and I say I don’t know. I tell you about it, how I told these two women I would check out the Bible, how one of them complimented my eyes, which you make a joke about, how she was coming onto me and I should’ve invited her upstairs. The first time I was in your bed, I told you you have pretty eyes, and you said I do, too. I replay the scene over and over in my head, like when you said you like the corners of my mouth, and you like my arms and my teeth, then you laughed at yourself for sounding weird. I feel disembodied, I feel like a mannequin put together by your strange compliments, I fear that out of your gaze I will disintegrate, I worry that one day I will wake up and there will be nothing left.